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Performing Arts Fundraising and the Achates Philanthropy Prize

Lately there have been a few high profile cases of charities called out for questionable fundraising practices. When you look at the examples of the worst cases — a barrage of phone calls and direct marketing materials sent to the same donors over and over without context — it’s easy to see why fundraising can have a poor reputation. This transactional fundraising, where the goal is maximising revenue in the short term, can be alienating and frustrating for both the fundraiser and the donor and is often ineffective in the long-term with donor retention rates in the single digits.

The mainstream charity sector has been taking a much-needed look at good practice and how to cultivate more meaningful, long-term and respectful relationships with donors. The strategies they are now adopting will be familiar to many performing arts fundraisers who have them embedded in their approach. Relationship-based fundraising is about increasing engagement with stakeholders and continuously deepening genuine relationships based on mutual best interest and respect. This approach is enriching, exciting, and enjoyable for both the donor and the fundraiser. It’s also much more efficient and lucrative to the charity in the long term with less donor churn and greater loyalty.

At Spektrix, we have the pleasure of working with over 300 performing arts clients, many of whom are charities. This means we see every day how client best practice — a joined up approach across the entire organisation to promote long-term, win-win patron relationships— creates happy donors and ticket-buyers, and improves overall revenue across all income streams.

That’s why we’re delighted to be a sponsor of the Achates Philanthropy Prize. The prize was established to celebrate and share stories behind the development of a new generation of philanthropists in the context of limited growth cultural philanthropy in the UK, a competitive fundraising climate and a need to better communicate the charitable status of most arts organisations to the wider public. Caroline McCormick, Chair of the Achates Philanthropy Foundation and founder of the Prize recently made a great case in ArtsProfessional for celebrating cultural philanthropists.

At Spektrix, we couldn't agree more that these stories of mutual benefit and transformational change for both donor and charity are inspirational and guide the way to a better future for fundraising. They also build awareness of the clear value of the arts and the vital need for support for the sector.

The winners of last year’s prize perfectly illustrate a relationship-based, win-win model of arts philanthropy. Theatre Royal Stratford East and Nigel Farnall began their relationship in 2012 when Nigel responded to an offer from the theatre included with his Olympic tickets. He immediately loved the place because of what he describes as “the fabulous atmosphere”.

Attending more and more regularly, Nigel came to the attention of the Development department when they began approaching frequent-attenders to ask for support refurbishing their auditorium. Nigel valued his experience so much that he was delighted to help with the campaign. Stratford East thanked him warmly and was soon communicating with Nigel about their commitment to being financially accessible and the resultant diversity of its audiences. Learning this and deeply excited about helping provide others with access to the experience he finds so enriching, Nigel made a contribution to support affordable ticket prices.

This is just one of the many inspiring stories we hear from the sector about building genuine relationships along a continuum of engagement. These relationships tend to start with a single visit and culminate with a personally meaningful philanthropic connection. We find that these stories often feature a substantially joined-up approach to cultivating relationships across the organisation. In the case of Stratford East, Nigel encountered a welcoming Box Office and Front of House staff who created that “fabulous atmosphere”, a Marketing team working with the Development office to identify engaged prospective supporters and leadership passionate about telling the story of the importance of affordable access to the theatre.

At Spektrix, we believe telling these inspiring success stories is vital. They represent a respectful and effective model for fundraising across the entire charitable sector. They also illustrate that a relationship-based approach to fundraising makes it possible to communicate the value of the arts in a way which pays dividends and connects our sector with the hearts of our patrons. This is essential best practice in an arts funding environment ever more reliant on encouraging individual philanthropists.

Libby and I will be on the judging panel for this year’s awards, and we’re looking forward to reading the entries and learning more about some of the wonderful philanthropists and businesses supporting the arts. Donors who have made their first gift to an arts organisation in the last 12 months are eligible, so now is the time to nominate them for the Achates Philanthropy Prize and champion the generosity of your supporters.  

There are two prizes this year; an Individual Philanthropy Prize which is joined by a new Corporate Philanthropy Prize - each category gives nominating organisations a chance to win a £5,000 donation and their celebrated philanthropist or business will be awarded a Peter Brooke-Ball sculpture, which they will be custodian of for a year.

The Call for Entries closes on 10 September 2017 with winners announced at Achates Philanthropy Prize awards reception, hosted at The Old Vic on 27 November 2017.

For further details and information on how to apply, please visit Achates Philanthropy website. 

We’re proud to be supporting this important award and the Achates Philanthropy Foundation.